Crisis, Political Representation and Democratic Renewal: The Portuguese case in the Southern European context
Roughly until the 2008 international financial and economic crisis and the sovereign debt crisis and austerity policies that followed, scholars studying the Southern European democracies (Greece, Italy, Portugal and Spain) either focused on democratic consolidation or on the quality of democracy (see, for example, Morlino 1998; Gunter, Diamandouros and Phule 1995). However, the Southern European democracies have been experiencing profound changes since the emergence of the global economic and financial crises. As Matthijs (2014) noted, ‘there is already ample evidence that the strength of liberal democracy in Southern Europe has diminished since 2010, as seen in a weakening of civil and political rights, the rule of law and the functioning of government’. Clearly, there are significant changes in the functioning of contemporary democracies, especially those that have
endured painful austerity policies.
The aim of this project is to examine these changes by analysing the case of Portugal, one of the countries affected most severely by the crisis, from both a longitudinal and a comparative perspective. Although it is still too early to definitely assess the impact of the economic crisis on the evolution of contemporary democracies, it is clear there are different responses to these external
challenges and distinct trajectories of adaptation. Portugal can be considered a good example of one of the most important difficulties many contemporary democracies must face: the people’s loss of faith in the ability of democratic institutions — particularly legislatures, parties and the political elite — to solve problems and realise collective goals.
CIES-IUL - Centre for Research and Studies in Sociology
Faculdade de Ciências Sociais Humanas - Universidade Nova de Lisboa